Saatchi & Saatchi fired over Doc Martens ads featuring dead rockers

The Media Guardian reports today that Saatchi & Saatchi London has been fired by Dr Martens for running an advertising campaign featuring dead rock stars Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, Joey Ramone, and Joe Strummer wearing the their Doc Martens boots in heaven. The ads have been flying around the net recently, mostly posted on blogs. Quite a few have commented on the ads being in poor taste.

David Suddens, the chief executive of Dr Martens parent company Airwear, said the brand had not commissioned the series of four print ads.

"Dr Martens is very sorry for any offence that has been caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr Martens boots," said Doc Martens CEO, Suddens.

"Dr Martens did not commission the work as it runs counter to our current marketing activities based on FREEDM, which is dedicated to nurturing grass roots creativity and supporting emerging talent.

"Our mistake was to say, yes, it may appear in the one-off edition. We did not commission it and did not even like it. I'm really terribly sorry."

"As a consequence, Dr Martens has terminated its relationship with the responsible agency."

Cobain's widow, Courtney Love was not at all pleased about the use of Kurt Cobain's image without her permission.

"Courtney had no idea this was taking place and would never have approved such a use," a representative for the Hole singer told People magazine.

"She thinks it's outrageous that a company is allowed to commercially gain from such a despicable use of her husband's picture."

Courtney's open dislike of the advertisements, albeit through a representative, have caused Dr Martens to apologise although it is not certain if the advertisements will go on to be shown.

"Dr Martens is very sorry for any offence that has been caused by the publication of images showing dead rock icons wearing Dr. Martens boots," a statement from the company read.

As Doc Martens claims the ads were never given approval, Kate Stanners at Saatchi yesterday put out a statement defending the work as a homage to the rock icons and stated that the campaign had been approved to run once in Fact Magazine in the UK.

"We believe the ads are edgy but not offensive. There has been a blog community for and against the ads, but it is our belief that they are respectful of both the musicians and the Dr. Martens brand.

"While we believe the creative campaign is a beautiful tribute to four legendary musicians, the individual broke both agency and client protocol in this situation by placing the ads on a U.S. advertising Web site and acting as an unauthorized spokesperson for the company," Stanners said.

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kurtberengeiger's picture

"...the individual broke both agency and client protocol in this situation by placing the ads on a U.S. advertising Web site and acting as an unauthorized spokesperson for the company..."

Ouch! That hurts. Which "U.S. advertising Web site" was it, or was it just the AD's personal portfolio?
But all-in-all, I'd think the viral effect that these ads are creating would be something Doc Martens would be more than grateful for. Achoo!

caffeinegoddess's picture

Believe it was adcritic.

Dabitch's picture

What the feck? Isn't that akin to saying "the individual broke agency protocol by getting mentioned in the tradepress"?

Dafurry's picture

karma for scammers.

i wonder how many awards this will pick up.

juhasaarinen's picture

Fucking excellent. Joey Ramone never wore DMs, ditto Kurt Cobain. Come to think of it, don't think Strummer and Vicious did either so screw that for Lovemarks.


purplesimon's picture

Saw these on, too.

And then yesterday, Creative Review landed on my mat and what do I see featured? These exact same ads.

So, the agency lost the account and people may have lost their jobs, yet critically they are being lauded by more people than they've offended. As if Courtney Love could be offended! Come on. I might be cynical, but not that cynical.

I hadn't thought of this brand for many years, not since I was at college, but now I think it's brought the idea of wearing these shoes back to my attention. But not if I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi.

It's a sad day for advertising that these didn't get applauded. And, an even sadder day that the account was lost on what I would point out should be an 'edgy' brand.

I wish I'd got sacked for it.

caffeinegoddess's picture

There's more at The Daily Swarm as well on what was going on. They have the press releases from Stanners and Doc Martens. Here are some additional snippets:

David Suddens, CEO of Dr. Martens’ parent company AirWair Ltd., told The Daily Swarm in a phone interview that the posters were never intended to see the light of day. “We said no. It was creative that was put to us, but we didn’t like it. It doesn’t represent the company at all.”

The images of the late rock icons were sourced from Corbis and cleared to run in the ads in the UK.

TDD's picture


Mickey Leigh, brother of the late Joey Ramone, has issued a the following statement concerning the seeming endorsement of Doc Martens.

"Obviously, we are in the same position as Courtney Love, as well as the Estates of the others depicted (in the ad). We were never consulted about this ad. We were never asked for permission to use Joey's image, or paid for the use of it. As Executor of my brother's estate I never would have approved this ad as Joey never wore these shoes. And, not that my brother was terribly religious, but the fact that he was Jewish, and this ad is not exactly Kosher, makes it that much more inappropriate, inconsiderate and contemptible."

Dabitch's picture

Joey never wore docs?

TDD's picture

Apparently, Joey Ramone wore Converse sneakers.

Dabitch's picture

Aaaah, yes now that I think of it, he did.

TDD's picture

It would seem Kurt Cobain didn't wear Doc Martens either, he apparently also wore Converse brand shoes, and Cobain had a "nature as an atheist radical"

I have not been able to confirm that Sid Vicious wore a kind of "no name" footwear that only resembled Doc Martens, but considering the Sex Pistols' public persona at the time, I believe it is probable that Sid never wore Doc Martens.

I'm still looking into Joe Strummer's footwear.

What we could end up with here is a series of ads that are more than just "in bad taste" .....

Dabitch's picture

I didn't pay much attention to Kurt during his heyday, so I'll leave that speculation to fans, but Sid seems a very likely candidate for wearing Martens considering how the skinheads and punks in the U.K. loved those boots at that time.

TDD's picture

From the photos I've seen, it looks to me like Sid wore engineer boots and not Doc Martens.

Toste's picture

Kurt Cobain was probably the only one of those rockers who ever wore Martens.

TDD's picture

I had a dream I saw an ad just like these, but it was Elvis sitting next to a large bucket of fried chicken, and the ad was for KFC.

Dabitch's picture

I misread that as Elvis sitting in a bucket of chicken and thought it was brilliant.

yarstberry's picture

Wordsandpictures just took on the subject:

mikemystery's picture

Saatchi made very little money from Doc Martins. But Docs need the publicity. And the ads, regerdless of whether they actually wore docs or not, are true to the spirit or DM. Its hardly inappropriate using dead rockstars for the most famous rock footwear. I don't see Courtney Love complaining about this sort of shit...

She's just pissed of she didn't get paid.

The DM marketing people are cowards and don't deserve ads this good.

caffeinegoddess's picture

If the pictures came from Corbis, why should she get paid? Or expect to get paid?

What confuddles me is if the ads were to run once, then weren't they approved for that one run?

kurtberengeiger's picture

Cool. I want one of those lunch boxes.

guime's picture

Even if they wore Doc. Martens', these still are just bad ads. This brand can do better than that.